We want to make sure the NHS staff know we are behind them and are trying in our way to help.
The Invent NI Alliance is a not-for-profit team created specifically to bring together industrial, scientific, medical and engineering expertise and capabilities from across Northern Ireland to rapidly develop and deliver support to frontline medics and other key workers in the Covid -19 emergency.
With the need to provide breathing assistance being one of the main requirements for patients with more severe cases of Covid -19, the Invent NI Alliance, team was structured with a main focus of developing and supplying, free of cost, new emergency breathing assistance devices. The Invent NI Alliance is also seeking to employ it’s manufacturing capabilities, supply chains and global networks to support the provision of other critical components, such as PPE equipment, oxygen generators, to frontline medics, care workers etc.
The Invent NI alliance will also seek to contribute to the global efforts to develop emergency breathing aids by making system designs, support software and manufacturing protocols freely available to others.
The alliance draws on input from relevant medical and engineering expertise and capabilities that provide the knowledge and skills to address the challenges of rapidly developing and producing emergency breathing assistance systems, such as various types of ventilators. The industrial members of the alliance come from across Northern Ireland and bring expertise in a range of areas including instrumentation, analytical instruments, software, mechanical fabrication and electronic engineering.
Allan Leacock of Tirnaform is the lead design engineer, with the engineering team at Inov8 Systems Ltd designing and developing the electronic and software systems. Nitronica’s Alan Peters brings electronic manufacturing capabilities, as well as offering space for assembly. John Tierney of Food Technology Ltd is the lead contact for metal work suppliers and Graham Engineering ltd, Ninja Ltd, Ashgrove Engineering Ltd, Lister Machine Tools Ltd and Aalco Belfast Ltd are providing the capabilities for the fabrication of stainless steel parts. Michael McGlade of Yellow Design Ltd leads on the webpage and social media support for the project. Avensys Ltd and SMC Ltd are providing advice on medical equipment along with test capabilities. Arthur Cox provide the legal service support for the Alliance WaterProof are supporting us in the provision of housings for the devices. Paul Reilly of CEI Ltd is the lead for EMC testing and compliance and Peter Johnston (Mid and East Antrim Borough Council) Councillor is the lead on contacts with local governmental agencies. Simon Kitchen is coordinating Fonacab’s support in moving materials between the partners as part of the developments.
The drive to try and contribute to easing the problems posed by Covid-19 and to create an alliance from a range of organisations was initiated in late March 2020. Capitalizing on this and with exceptional support and enthusiasm from the participating organisations and individauls, the Invent NI Alliance was initiated on the 26th of March.
Since late March the Invent NI Alliance have been liaising with medics, assisted breathing and medical ventilator specialists, engineers and other groupings working on developing new emergency breathing aids, to design and produce prototype emergency breathing aids. In parallel the Alliance partners have been developing plans and structures for the manufacture of emergency breathing aids.
Design and testing of the new the emergency ventilator/ emergency breathing assistance system is progressing at breakneck pace. The basic design centres on utilising the readily available medical Ambu-bag that is routinely used by medics as a manual short-term tool to assist patient breathing. The Invent NI Alliance approach is to mechanically automate an Ambu-bag to allow it to controllably supply the patient with an appropriate air and oxygen supply. The development work has involved liaising with expert medical professionals to better define the practical requirements and optimise the performance and design of the system. The work has to date involved the development design and testing of five iterations of the design. Work has progressed to produce an effective means of mechanically automating the Ambu-bag. Basic control, monitoring and function display systems have been developed and integrated into the system. The system is currently undergoing testing to assess the performance, compatibility with patient requirements and scope out the potential use case scenarios.
The supply of emergency ventilators and other emergency assisted breathing systems is a global challenge. There are a many organisation currently increasing their production of existing ventilator and assisted breathing systems, as well as organisations and grouping seeking to develop new and easily manufactured emergency assisted breathing systems. Many of the existing and new systems are based around similar solutions. This means that there is a risk of there being parts scarcity for such designs. Consequently, a key feature of the alliance emergency ventilator/ emergency assisted breathing systems design is to avoid supply chain issues and to source locally as much as possible. As part of this work alliance partners are actively re-tooling to allow them to manufacture component parts.
Further development work will be carried out as fast as possible, with efforts being focused on more rigours testing of the mechanical components and developing more advanced control and monitoring capabilities in the emergency ventilator/ emergency breathing assistance system. It will be necessary to carry out more extensive liaison and testing with the medical experts and to further modify the system in light of any recommendations arising from such testing. We will also be working with the medical experts and relevant governmental regulators to seek approval for the system.
The Invent NI Alliance comprises highly experienced manufacturing companies possessing the expertise, manufacturing capabilities, supply chain and support networks locally, across the island of Ireland and the U.K. to rapidly manufacture new ventilators or automated assisted breathing systems. The team has multi-company manufacturing structure lined up, with all Alliance companies willing and able to contribute their time and capabilities for free. Critically, suppliers have already committed themselves to working out of hours and supplying expertise and parts. In fact, the Alliance have already ordered the majority of parts required for the first 250 units.
There are a wide range of programmes from governments across the world on procuring and developing new versions of existing hospital ventilators and initiatives from various groups to develop new rapidly manufacturable emergency breathing assistance or ventilator systems. The Invent NI Alliance is actively linking with networks across the globe to learn share the most recent developments. In this way it is possible not only optimise the Invent NI Alliance developments, but also to ensure we contribute to these other developments by making system designs, support software and manufacturing protocols freely available to others.
The alliance partners are providing all the resources for the emergency ventilator/automated breathing assistance system development and will provide their staff and facilities, at no cost, for the manufacturing of the new systems. However, in order to facilitate the rapid manufacture of the ventilators and provide these to hospitals for free, the alliance is, seeking support for the materials and distribution costs for the emergency ventilator/automated breathing assistance systems.
It is the earnest hope of the Invent Alliance partners that the Covid-19 pandemic will be suppressed by the great efforts of the U.K. population and that consequently the requirement for emergency breathing aids will not be as great predicted. In this positive eventuality, the Alliance will focus on providing support through the provision of PPE and other equipment to health, care staff and other key workers and making the emergency ventilator/automated breathing assistance designs and systems available to others in need across the world.